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The Black River (Photo: Lucija i Rade Jug)

 The legend says: if it wasn’t for the Black Queen, there would be no Black or White River, and if it wasn’t for these rivers, there would be no Plitvice Lakes…

A long time ago, a terrible drought struck this area. Trees withered, animal herds perished, the earth turned to dust, and rocks sizzled under the blazing sun. The people sought refuge in sheltered depths of the cold caves, praying to the gods and invoking rain. One day, a voice from the heavens spoke to the people: “In the early morning, gather at the Spring of Life where you have quenched your thirst and found the water you need to survive.There, get all of your troubles off your chest.Speak with dignity and choose your words from the heart, but still be truthful.If you do so, I will be by your side.”

The elders recognised the voice of the Black Queen who would speak to the people whenever trouble befell them and came down on those who were weakest. They thought of the evil that fell upon them, as well as of their pettiness in times of abundance: how they would set themselves against one another and separate themselves in heart from misfortune and those closest to them. And so they awaited the new morning with fear and apprehension. As soon as the first roosters crowed, they all made for the Spring of Life. They all sat down around the dried out spring, and their tribe elder spoke: “The Black Queen will listen to what you have to say and decide whether you are telling the truth or intentionally trying to deceive her.Do not try to look for her, as goodness and love cannot be seen.Recognise her by finding her in yourselves.”

And so, one by one, they spoke of their troubles, all except the richest and most selfish man in the tribe. The man was wicked and arrogant, deaf to other people’s misfortunes. He was the only one who refused to repent, but rather started to scold the others. The elder was outraged when he heard this, and cast him out of the tribe forever. As soon as he did that, a rainbow appeared above the Spring of Life and a familiar voice could be heard. They threw themselves on their drought-plagued land, out of joy, out of fear, out of hope… The Black Queen told them: “This is your land and your homeland, the only one you have.Even now, dry and hard, ugly and barren, it is the most beautiful and rich land you own.Love it!I am your daughter and not a heavenly miracle.I am your love and hope.I have heard you and got to know your hearts.You have freed yourselves from the evil that has infested your tribe.Those of you who have spoken out – spoke truthfully.This is also my truth.Go back to your homes, and the rain will return to the thirsty fields and forests, and you will regain your most beautiful land.And others will come to admire it.My tears will pour out in streams: my right eye for the black source of the Black River, and my left eye for the white source of the White River.”

In that moment, the rainbow in the sky above the Spring turned into two clouds: one dark, and the other white. The first raindrops touched the scorched earth. They all raised their hands towards the sky, as if under a spell, listening to the rebirth of the source of the Black River. Since then, water has flown continuously, without stopping, in a series of sixteen beautiful lakes.

…And the story was retold many a time, adorned with made-up stories about the Black Queen’s golden carriage, her golden hair, fairies, ladies that accompanied her… Only those who were wise knew that the Black Queen could only be recognised by the goodness of the heart.

Read other interesting stories from the Plitvice Lakes National Park